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Webdesign

Firefox vs. Firefox Developer Edition: What’s the Difference?

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If you’ve been around Firefox and web design for any amount of time you’ve probably seen reference to the “Firefox Developer Edition”. You likely looked at it, possibly installed it, and then wondered:

“What exactly is the difference here?”

In this quick tip we’re going to clear up the answer to that question for you.

Where to Download Firefox Developer

You’ll probably want to download both Firefox regular and Firefox Developer so you can follow along with this tip and see what we’re describing for yourself.

Note: Firefox Developer Edition is not the same as beta or nightly, which are both more unstable testing versions of Firefox. However, if you do happen to be interested in them, you can download beta or nightly from here.

Difference 1: Separate Profiles

Firefox regular on the left Firefox Developer on the right
Firefox regular on the left, Firefox Developer on the right

When you install Firefox Developer, you don’t have to worry about it affecting the setup you currently have with regular Firefox; you can install both applications side by side and they will function independently. This is due to Firefox setting up different user profiles for each of the two versions.

In practice this means each browser can have different plugins installed, different preference configurations, be signed into to different Firefox accounts, have separate browsing history and so on. They might both be Firefox, but they will be run as totally different applications.

Difference 2: Cutting Edge Features

If there is a helpful new feature coming to Firefox, it comes to the Developer Edition first.

For example, though it’s in the regular version today, for some time the only place you could access a visual inspection tool for CSS Grid was in the Developer Edition. The same goes for the CSS shape path editor, the variable fonts inspector, and many other features.

Right now you can use Developer Edition to test the new Picture-in-Picture player, (Windows only). This lets you click a little blue button overlaid on a video and pop it into a floating player that will stay above other browser tabs or even other applications.

the new Picture-in-Picture player

Difference 3: Update & Release Cycle

Developer Edition is 12 weeks ahead of the regular version of Firefox with adding support for the latest additions to web standards. You can use the lead time to test out new features, and update sites to take advantage of them in advance.

On top of that, should you wish you can get involved in the stabilization process, giving feedback and becoming part of the progress of web browsing development.

To get an idea of the kind of changes you will be getting early access to you can review the extensive collection of past release notes for Developer Edition:

Developer Edition release notes
Developer Edition release notes

Difference 4: Dev Tuned Preferences

Developer Edition has its preferences set with the needs of developers in mind. For example, features enabled by default include the ability to use Firefox to debug Chrome, or the ability to perform remote debugging over USB or WiFi.

Difference 5: Default Dark Themes

When you install Developer Edition it will be configured with dark themes out of the box, both in the Dev Tools and for the overall browser.

Regular Firefox Dev Tools above Developer themed Dev Tools below
Regular Firefox Dev Tools above, Developer themed Dev Tools below

In the past, dark browser and dev tools themes were only available in the Developer Edition, but now you can also find these themes in the regular version should you like to configure it to look like the Developer Edition.

Summing Up

To boil everything down to a bullet list, the differences Firefox Developer Edition bring to the table include:

  1. A separate profile so your development environment can be configured differently to your regular browsing environment
  2. Access to cutting edge features not available elsewhere
  3. A 12 week lead time on support for the newest additions to web standards
  4. Default preferences tuned for developers
  5. Dark theme style out of the box

That should clarify the differences between Firefox Developer Edition and regular Firefox, and help you decide if you want to incorporate it into your workflow.

For more on Firefox check out:

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